1 Cardozo Women's L.J. 133 (1993-1994)
Prostitution: A Violation of Women's Human Rights

handle is hein.journals/cardw1 and id is 145 raw text is: PROSTITUTION: A VIOLATION OF WOMEN'S
Prostitution is similarly situated individuals making comple-
mentary choices: one to buy sex and the other to sell it.
Prostitution is women exercising their right to [fill in the
a. choose
b. work
c. fulfill their sexual fantasies
d. make a lot of money
e. experience power
f all of the above
Neither of these statements defines prostitution. Both re-
flect the mythology of prostitution promoted by the pro-prostitu-
tion lobby-a network of sex industry enterprises and their front-
people bent on legitimizing prostitution as women's work. Some
of the members of this lobby are well intentioned. They believe
that legitimizing prostitution as a profession will improve the
conditions of prostitutes' lives. Many, however, have a financial
or sexual stake in maintaining prostitution.
The pro-prostitution lobby uses a common rhetoric. Prosti-
tution is a job. Prostitutes are sex workers. The interaction
between prostitute and johnis a contract. Pimps and procur-
ers are third parties. The solution to the oppression and abuse
of women in the sex industry is for sex workers to organize
prostitutes' collectives and thus become empowered.
Although the pro-prostitution lobby purports to champion
prostitutes' rights, what this phrase really means is the right to
be sexually exploited, a pseudo right that violates well estab-
lished human rights to dignity and equality and to freedom from
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.'
The position of the pro-prostitution lobby is seductive, for
* This article is the transcription of a presentation given at Cardozo Law School on
November 17, 1992. Dorchen Leidholdt is Associate Director of the Coalition Against
Trafficking in Women, a nongovernmental organization with consultative status to the
United Nations Economic and Social Council.
I The rights to dignity and equality and to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrad-
ing treatment are set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by
the United Nations' General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Article 30 states that
any activity... [or] any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms


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